A report in Russian language sports site R-Sport suggests that Arizona Coyotes forwards Viktor Tikhonov and Sergei Plotnikov may be on their way back to Russia.
The two forwards were acquired in the middle of the season off of waivers from Chicago and in a trade with Pittsburgh, respectively.
Tikhonov returned to the NHL with the Blackhawks this season to fill a depth role and help Artemi Panarin adjust to North American hockey. But Panarin's spectacular season pushed Tikhonov to the margins, and ultimately, the waiver wire. He had three goals and three assists for the Coyotes in 39 appearances.
Sergei Plotnikov never really took off with the Penguins after receiving a contract as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He played 32 games for Pittsburgh, but appeared to fall out of favor with head coach Mike Sullivan as the season progressed. He did not play from January 6th until he was traded to the Coyotes by Matthias Plachta and a 7th round selection in 2016. He recorded one assist in 13 games for the Coyotes.
If the report is true, the two wingers will likely sign with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL. Tikhonov played for St. Petersburg prior to returning to the NHL, while Plotnikov played for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv prior to heading to North America.
UPDATE (11:03 PM) - Tikhonov issued a pseudo-denial later today:
Clearing up a recent rumor. Coyotes UFA F Viktor Tikhonov says he is not planning to return to the KHL: "The goal is to stay in the NHL."— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) May 18, 2016
While certainly Tikhonov would want to take another shot at an NHL roster, it would also not be surprising for him to have a second option should nothing pan out in free agency. One more storyline to watch this summer.